Actors and Their Histories

I'm part of the aging cohort of subscribers to the Huntington Theater, one of our local theater companies.  Huntington productions are often worthy, and occasionally appalling--but not in a good way (newer playwrights sometimes give the impression of never having actually seen a play--but I'll have to deal with those experiences at a later time).  Last night was Emlyn Williams's The Corn is Green, a self-congratulatory autobiographical play of literary education that managed to be both earnest and creepy.  It dates from the 1930s, when there were a lot of stages to fill, and a lot of plays written to fill them, and a lot of people who took them seriously.

It starred Kate Burton (Richard Burton's daughter), and her son.  Richard Burton was Welsh, the play is set in Wales, so Kate and her son spoke of their Welsh heritage, their visits to Wales, etc.

Last time I saw Kate Burton on the Huntington stage, she was in an excellent production of Hedda Gabler.  I don't recall her mentioning her Norwegian heritage then.

I would love to see an actor in one of these things not mention the heritage, the teacher, the experience in youth, or the neighbor that connects them to the play, but admit that they are actors, and that their personal background is completely irrelevant to their performance.  It is their skill and talent that makes them successful, and it is the author's words that connect them, and us, to the play.

But then what would the busy graduate students who probably write these things do with their time?  And what would I be doing while waiting for scene changes?